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Liz Hoxie
Posts: 220
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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We have a wild rose thicket that's about 16' x 16'. We were thinking about putting a swale/berm at the top of the thicket, which then slopes down. It levels out at the fence for the goat pen. We'd put another swale/berm there. Hoping to channel spring run off into the ground and water the roses, which shade the goats. The goats eat any rose plants they can reach. Not much grows on the goat side of the fence, but it may help. They lay there to chew their cud, which keeps the dirt compacted. I can't call the ground soil yet, but we put a swale/berm about 8' into the pen and there's some plants growing there now.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2549
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Can you provide a photo of the area? 
In permaculture there are three types of swale use.
First there is the On Contour, Leads to No Where swale and berm, this one is level from one end to the other and holds water like a pond would.
Commonly it is used on very slight grades (no more than 3-5 %) it will create water plumes downhill ( might pop out as a spring at the bottom of the slope if it is steeper than 5% grade).

Next there is the swale/berm with pond at the middle and end, this one is part of the Key Line method and it will be 1 degree off from the contour so water flows slowly along the length to fill the holding ponds which then sheet down to the next swale/berm/pond set.
This is well suited for land with a grades in the range of 5 to 10 %.

Lastly there is the Main line system, a compromise consisting of key point pond with swales and berms heading off to ridge lines at a 1% slope the water goes in both directions usually and will fill the key point pond and usually stop ponds at each end of the swales at the ridges.
This is most suited for steep, hilly terrain with grades steeper than 10 %.

It is very important to select the correct one of these three for your land type situation.
Using an on contour set up on steep ground can end in disaster because of the water plume effect.
Using a key line type set can keep water from the slow seep downhill if it is built on to shallow a slope.
The Key Line system and the Main Line system are so similar as to be difficult to distinguish just by observation.
The main way to tell is by the number of ponds the swales contain.

Redhawk
 
Liz Hoxie
Posts: 220
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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I don't know how to measure the steepness of a slope, but that area is probably about 5%. The hills around here are so steep that this looks almost level to me. Any large area that is level around here is probably man-made. Do you know of any good links about the Key Line System swales? Since it is either uphill or down around here, I'm going to have to learn how to measure a slope. Maybe Google will be more help this time. Thanks for explaining this to me.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2549
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
210
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The original book "Water for Every Farm" by Yeomans is the recommended book.  The second book that covers this concept in good detail is "Restoration Agriculture" by Mark Shepard 
The Book that started the whole idea is "Tree Crops, a permanent agriculture" by J. Russell Smith first published in 1929  this link is to a free PDF of this book Tree Crops PDF

This is the Yeomans webstite Keyline.com

Redhawk
 
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